The Giants third minicamp practice was completed on Thursday, marking the end of the Giants offseason program. The team got a lot done over the course of the two months they were in the building. I mentioned my two main takeaways for the offense and defense at the end of my practice report on Thursday but here are some more specific impressions I walked away with that could give some real clues as to what the team will look like in the fall.
1. Eli Manning still has a lot in the tank physically. He looks very similar, if not identical to the guy I've watched on the field for the past decade. His arm strength, accuracy and decision making were all there and obvious to see. He was clearly the best quarterback on the field. Obviously, things can look a lot different in game situations when he is getting pressured by defenses, but for whatever you can show in practice, Eli showed.
For the other quarterbacks, Davis Webb continues to show all the physical attributes you want from a quarterback, and no one is going to outwork him. It is time to see if he can carry his fundamentals into game situations, and see how he sees the field, reads defenses and makes decisions against live opponents that are trying to clean his clock.
Kyle Lauletta got much better towards the end of the offseason program as he got more comfortable in the offense. His ball placement got a lot better, but we still saw some passes deep outside the numbers float a little too much.
2. I have little doubt the Giants first team offensive line is going to be better this year. It hard to tell how much better at this stage because no one has worn pads and there isn't any contact allowed in spring practices. Nate Solder projects such a calming presence and has helped bring the group together. Just the other day I walked out of my office and I had to wait until the entire offensive line group piled out of the player's lounge where they were hanging out together, and into a meeting. As Shaun O'Hara used to say, it was like the march of the elephants. It is great to see.
Will Hernandez, even within the limitation of OTA's, has shown he is a little chippy and plays with pride. I cannot wait to see him out there in pads. There is a good competition at center between two very cerebral players, Jon Halapio and Brett Jones. Patrick Omameh and John Jerry are known quantities at guard. It will be fun to see how Ereck Flowers performs at right tackle once the pads come on in August. Every fan should be cautiously optimistic. The real test will be the first exhibition game when they are going against a live pass rush versus a team not wearing blue, white and gray.
3. Other than his impressive raw athletic skills, it is hard to draw any conclusions about Saquon Barkley as a runner from practice. It will even be hard to see what you need to in padded camp practices since there is no tackling. I have no doubts about his running based on his college tape, but confirmation will have to wait until games are played.
What I did have confirmed for me during the offseason program were his receiving skills. Barkley dropped only one or two passes throughout all of spring practice and ran every route you want a running back to run. He caught passes in the flat, over the middle on circle routes, and deep down the field on wheel routes. Linebackers have absolutely no shot of covering him. We've also seen a lot of empty sets from the Giants offense, with Barkley (and other running backs) split out wide. It will be yet another dimension for a versatile weapon for the Giants offense.
4. The place kicking competition is wide open. Aldrick Rosas had the best leg in OTA's, but in terms of field goal kicking there is still a lot to be proven from both Rosas and Marshall Koehn. It is also important to remember that both those guys are not just competing against each other either. They are also competing against every other kicker that might be available on the free agent market before the season starts. How they kick in pressure situations during preseason games will be huge. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of having a consistent field goal kicker you can rely on when the season starts.
5. I don't think I, or anyone else has any idea what the back half of the Giants roster is going to look like. With a new coaching staff and front office making decisions on the final 53 and practice squad, there is no way to know how they view players or want the composition of the roster to look like. Dave Gettleman has indicated he is not overly concerned with having X number of players at each position, which is different than what we've seen in the past. We also don't know if the new staffs view the returning players on the team the same way as they were looked at in the past. As has been stated multiple times, every single player has a clean slate and it will be interesting to see how opinions have been formed by the time final cuts are made the first weekend of September.